If your head is still spinning, well, so is mine, because the Penguins game against the Columbus Blue Jackets took you on an adventure of fun filling, nerve wracking, 60 minutes of hockey, plus free hockey after that. On a night of milestones that included former Penguins from the 50 yr history being present, a Matt Cullen impactful return, and Phil Kessel’s 800th game, there was alot to get into.
30 seconds into the game Cullen’s presence turned into a quick opportunity by his line mates Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist, that had a Hornqvist shot ring off the post. Just the start you want from this new look line. Soon after it was the Blue Jackets though getting a chance as Boone Logan had a semi breakaway that thankfully Matt Murray fought off. The beginning of the opening period had each time trading scoring chance for scoring chance, the Jackets though for sure controlled more of the offense to about 60-40.
Finally the Penguins started finding their offensive groove, they kept cycling the pucks along the boards which at 1st was not mounting much. Persistence soon came through as the Pens held onto the puck in the offensive zone for 70 seconds, it brought on fresh new skates that led to Phil Kessel gliding to the right point slot and firing a shot behind the goalie for a 1-0 lead. The key was a great screen by Nick Bonino, and most of the game was traffic in front.
After that the Penguins really found their offensive rhythm in that 1st period, that had a bunch of shots from out at point, but mayhem as well in front that led to some great chances. The hard work paid off as returnee Matt Cullen broke through on some loose puck shenanigans, he was tripped and non purposely took out the goalie, leaving a moving puck inches away from crossing the goal line, Patric Hornqvist knocked it in before there could be any discretion about the net being knocked off. That’s 3 goal in 2 games for Horny. Amongst notable things, throughout the game a Crosby-Hagelin–Rust line was going out. I would even say Hagelin was the unsung hero of the game for the way he kept some rushes going with his speed. After 1 it was 2-0 Penguins.
The Penguins carried the same momentum from the 1st straight into the 2nd. Early on they had an awesome 2 on 1 that had Crosby set up for an easy shot, but the Columbus defenseman made a great play to stop that. Through 10 mins into the 2nd period, the Blue Jackets had 1 shot on goal while the Penguins had a decent rush going.
Again a Crosby and Brandon Dubinsky tangle had people clamoring for Dubinsky’s head. They’ve had bad blood in the past, and Dubinsky will always try to get under the skin of Crosby, but that can’t really work when Crosby is continually dominant in both career and individual accolades.
Matt Murray bailed the Penguins out on a 2 on 0, as the puck was leaving the zone and the Jackets defenseman just poked it in as everyone was headed the other way up the ice, the laws of gravity easily made it 2 on nothing, but Murray defied it. Shorty later, after a silly pinch by Olli Maatta, the Jackets had an odd man advantage despite generating no offense in the 2nd. Murray made the initial save but it was Maata again who overskated the rebound which led to the villain Dubinsky scoring. That scumbag.
Thankfully minutes later, the Penguins engine of an offense saw the team go up 3-1 as Phil Kessel brought the puck up before sliding it to Jake Guentzel, he then went cross ice to a parked Nick Bonino that was in front of the net. Just like that it was 3 goals for the Penguins to just 1 for the Jackets. Before the end of the period we got some nice beef between Boone Jenner and Chris Kunitz, this guy Jenner was going after Kris Letang and Kunitz was having none of it.
*This guy tweeted that the Bonino goal was in the 3rd but it was actually in the 2nd, we’ll let is slide for now.
Soon into 4 on 4 the Blue Jackets dominated and scored 30 seconds into the 3rd period. Honestly the whole 3rd period could be summed up as the Blue Jackets command most of it to tie the game up while the Penguins sustained no offense. Their only chances included a missed wide shot by Crosby 2 on 1 and then later he made a phenomenal behind the legs pass to Kris Letang to set up a shot but could to burry it. That changed though in OT.
We all love a good hero story, well we didn’t exactly get that but we were kinda close. After a series of trade off chances, Crosby stole the puck from the despised Dubinsky and headed to the other side for a breakaway. Though he had a rolling puck he was hit enough to warrant a penalty, while others wanted a penalty shot. Sometimes timing is everything, and we got that with Phil Kessel! Half way through the power play the puck ended up placed perfectly to him off a blocked Kris Letang shot, and then wham! that’s your game! The Penguins got 69 pts from that Kessel goal, his 2nd of the game and of course overtime winner. Just 2 points behind Columbus, 69 is a nice place now to be.
When you’re the defending Stanley Cup champions, there’s not really a thing like getting overly excited for this kinda matchup. When you lose to the team 7-1 during the last meeting, you defintely have a chip on your shoulder. The Pens brought some of that team fluency tonight, the Jackets shouldn’t want to play the Penguins if they were to meet in the playoffs, Pittsburgh can occupy dominance almost any time when it ratchets up the intestinal pressure. I don’t know if Columbus can keep up with them for 7 games.